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Archive for the ‘Blessings’ Category

 

Many of us have endured lots of rain this spring, but the payoff has been worth it. On our little hillside, tightly compacted foliage now covers trees and shrubs. Hearty blades of grass press thickly together like subway travelers. The whole landscape is so green, you’d think we lived on the Emerald Isle.

 

(Trees and shrubs behind our house.  ‘Wish the light was better,

but it’s another day of clouds and  rain.)

 

Close inspection reveals, however, that spring foliage comes in many more shades of green than emerald.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t green a glorious color? No matter the shade, there’s something about green that breathes restoration and life into our beings.

Researchers have studied the response of the body when a person is surrounded by a particular color. Green causes muscles to relax and blood vessels to dilate. Therefore, it has a calming effect and lowers stress.

The positive effects of green are even more pronounced when we get outdoors. Studies have shown that such capacities as short-term memory, mental energy, creativity and concentration all improve after time spent in nature. Even five minutes can produce positive effects.

 

 

Researchers are even discovering restorative responses in the body after a person has been outdoors. For example, inflammation decreases, nearsightedness is less pronounced, and the immune system improves.

What do you suppose accounts for all those benefits? Perhaps God intentionally designed his creation (at least in part) to provide restoration of body, soul, and spirit–for us.

 

 

The challenge is getting out there. Too often I’ve allowed indoor tasks and activities to take precedence over sitting on the deck or taking a walk.

And once situated on the deck or strolling in the neighborhood, I need to take note of my surroundings. If my mind is preoccupied with the to-do list or troubling concerns, restoration is not going to happen. I have to pay attention.

How?

Engage the senses.

 

 

  • Take note of the light dappling the foliage.
  • Listen to the breezes whisper among the evergreens.
  • Fill the lungs with pure air cleansed by flourishing, carbon dioxide-breathing trees.
  • Touch the cool, curled edges of the geranium leaves.

 

 

Experience the wonder.

 

  • Limbs and gentle winds join in an intermittent dance.
  • Leaves bob and sway.
  • Treetops enthusiastically participate; creek bed foliage plays the wallflower, quiet and still.
  • Sun glints through the woods, creating a spotlight effect on some branches. Others are draped in deep, green-black shadow.

 

 

And the most important step of all:

 

Express gratitude.

 

I thank you, Father, for the gift of greenery, the grandeur of stately trees, the delight of shapely leaves, the peaceful calm of an open field or forest temple.

 

 

I thank you for the lessons they teach—reminders to grow our roots deep into your love (Ephesians 3:17), to be watered by your Word (Psalm 1:2-3), and to live in the Light of your Son, Jesus (John 8:12).

 

 

It’s not just the infinite heavens that declare your glory and display your wisdom and power (Psalm 19:1). Even the minutest of plants offers evidence of your splendor and artistry.

 

 

The whole of nature is your living room, God, and I humbly thank you for the precious privilege of meeting you there.

 

  

(“Nature is God’s living room,” a Michael Hyatt creative expression.)

 

Photo credits:  www.pexels.com; Nancy Ruegg (3), http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pexels.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pexels.com (2), http://www.publicdomainpictures.net; geograph.org.uk; http://www.maxpixels.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pexels.com; http://www.maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com; http://www.pexels.com.

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Last week, our three grown children, their spouses, and three granddaughters gathered here–in one place, at one time. Even Steve’s sister and brother-in-law were able to join us for a day.  Such gatherings do not happen often.

(Left side, front to back:  1. Steve, 2. our younger son, Jeremy, 3. our daughter, Heather, 4. her husband, Tim.  Right side, front to back:  1. Steve’s brother-in-law, Bill, 2. Steve’s sister, Karen, 3. Tim’s and Heather’s daughter, Sophie, 4. Eric’s and Hilja’s daughter, Elena, 5. Eric’s wife, Hilja, and 6. our older son, Eric.  Not pictured:  Jeremy’s wife, Nancy, and Eric’s and Hilja’s baby daughter, Maarit.)

For Steve and me, the greatest pleasure in life is the opportunity to enjoy our children– what King Solomon called “God’s best gift” (Psalm 127:3 MSG).

He went on to say:

 

How blessed are you parents,

with your quivers full of children!”

–Psalm 127:5 MSG

And what is a quiver-full?  Dr. Howard Hendricks of Dallas Seminary explained years ago that, in Bible times, a quiver most often held six arrows.  Thanks to our three children who chose their spouses wisely, Steve and I now have a full quiver–with three little arrows as well.

Oh yes, we are blessed, and always count down the days until our clan can gather once more.

Even four-year old Elena reveled in the long-awaited together time.

Sophie (8), Maarit (3 months), and Elena

During the week, we  visited several parks with playgrounds…

…and even explored the zoo on Wednesday.  But perhaps some of the sweetest memories will be those associated with home…

… such as one afternoon at Eric’s and Hilja’s, catching up with one another and playing games.

(Jeremy and Nancy)

There were fun moments at Nana’s and Papa’s house, too.

(The Night of the Big Sleepover)

Now these moments are treasures to hold close in our hearts–not so much for what we did as for who we were with.

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy;

They are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”

–French novelist, Marcel Proust (1871-1922)

How fitting that, as the landscape blossomed last week, so did our souls–because of a family who make us very happy.

*      *      *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

I thank you, Father, for the joy of doing life with this particular group of folks.  We may not live in close proximity, but because of you, our spirits are intertwined.  Every opportunity to be together is cause for great celebration.  And we praise you for the gift of recollection, so beautiful moments like these may live in our hearts forever.  

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While waiting for the coffee to brew Monday morning, I peeked out the kitchen curtains. To the east, a glowing red band rimmed the horizon. Slightly to the west, a clear, dark sky provided backdrop for a gleaming crescent moon.

 

 

Thank you, Father, I prayed, for prompting me to look out the window just now. Your handiwork never ceases to thrill me.

I wondered what further delights God might present as the day progressed? I decided to begin a list, just for the fun of seeing how many moments I could record. The glowing horizon and bright crescent moon became #1.

#2.  A completed workout.   Thank you, Lord, for helping me eat a live frog–yet again!  (Yes, that’s a perfectly logical prayer for those who know what Mark Twain said: “Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” For me, exercising is about as distasteful as eating a live frog!)

Moments later, as a bowl of oatmeal spun slow circles inside the microwave, I chose to window-gaze again. This time a squirrel caught my attention as he scampered along a treetop branch, then leapt across a wide chasm to the next tree.

 

 

How do squirrels jump like that without falling? Such astounding abilities you’ve given some of your creatures, Lord.  

#3 became:   A gravity-defying squirrel.

#4.   Oatmeal—with cinnamon, berries, walnuts, and milk. Thank you, Father, for the endless combinations of ingredients we can put together to make our taste buds happy! 

#5.   Coffee.  The most exquisite flavor to start the morning.

 

 

I was on a roll now as the praiseworthy moments continued:

#6.   A dropped contact found.

#7.   Sunshine pouring through the windows.

#8.   The drive to our son’s house along the edge of Mount Airy Forest. Spring is in evidence: bright green undergrowth portends the imminent leafing of trees.

 

 

#9.   Clear, rain-washed air–fresh and crisp. Just breathing is a supreme pleasure.

#10. Holding four-year old Elena’s soft little hand as we climb the stairs together.

#11.  Snuggling two-month old Maarit on my shoulder while taking her on another slow, bouncy tour of the living/dining, and kitchen area. Her bright eyes seem to study every object, any sign of movement, every play of light.

#12.  Reveling in Maarit’s smiles, each one a delightful surprise.

#13.  Making her laugh for the first time.

#14.  Watching Elena complete a 48-piece puzzle, with very little help.

#15.  Catching one of Maarit’s smiles on camera–well, almost.

 

 

#16.  Listening to a symphony of birds upon arrival home, as I walked from car to house.

#17.  Soaking up the warmth of sunshine on the deck while reading my Bible and journaling a bit.

#18.  Enjoying a refreshing salad, all the more delicious because Steve made it.

 

 

#19.  Receiving blessing and challenge while reading posts from bloggers I follow.  (See the list in the right column!)

#20. Resting with a pleasurable book.

 

    *    *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

It may not be practical to record such moments every day, but I can see great benefit from keeping a list now and then.

It’s grateful eyes that get to see God’s goodness and glory everywhere–all day long.

 

 

(“It is good to praise the Lord…

…to proclaim your love in the morning

and your faithfulness at night…

…For you make me glad by your deeds, O Lord,

I sing for joy at the works of your hands.”

–Psalm 92:1-2, 4)

 

What commonplace moment brings you uncommon joy? Please share in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pixabay.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.farm7.staticflickr.com; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.wikimediacommons; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.flickr.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

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“I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of,” said the wealthy, well-known actor.

Of course, I thought. He’s loving the high life—for now—and maybe feels guilty that 97% of humanity will never live the dream he’s privileged to enjoy.

But what he said next shocked me.

They should do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that’s not the answer.”

Who made that startling statement? A man just about everybody in America recognizes on sight: Jim Carrey.

I wonder if Jim knew how close he came to echoing the words of King Solomon?

 

 

(“When I surveyed all that my hands had done

and what I had toiled to achieve,

everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

nothing was gained under the sun”–Ecclesiastes 2:11 NIV.)

 

From ancient times to today, man has strived to find happiness by obtaining the next desired possession, experiencing the next enticing adventure, or pursuing the next enthralling relationship—even though any success is short-lived.

When will we learn?

Contentment results when we:

Want what we have.

 

(“The things you take for granted someone else is praying for.”

— Anonymous)

 

When our children were eight, eleven, and thirteen, my pastor-husband was appointed to a church in an area of South Florida known for its golf courses, beaches, and wealth.

That last characteristic was most challenging for our children. Many of their classmates arrived at school in expensive cars. They wore clothing with exclusive labels, owned all the latest gadgets, and traveled to exotic locations.

Though Eric, Heather, and Jeremy could see that consumerism did not guarantee happiness, they still struggled with the inequity.

The younger two, Jeremy and Heather, were thirteen and sixteen when they joined a crew of teens and sponsors for a one-week trip to the Dominican Republic.  Their responsibilities included painting at an orphanage and interacting with the children.

The next summer they repeated the trip. And as a result of witnessing true poverty, their outlook on life was dramatically transformed.

 

(Heather is the blonde on the left, in case you weren’t sure!)

 

Months later, Heather and I were riding together in our van and stopped at a red light. We weren’t even talking about those weeks spent at the orphanage. But a decked out sports car pulled up next to us and after a pause, Heather wistfully said, “The cost of that car would feed so many people in the Dominican.”

Such a dramatic shift of perspective had occurred in her heart.  Jeremy’s too.

However, over time contentment easily fades. We must:

Find the positives of each day.

I’ve started a new section in my quiet time notebook:  “A Celebration of Small Things.”  Maybe you’d like to join me?  Each evening I’m recording at least one thing that gives me a sense of contentment. The first entry on Monday was daffodils.

 

 

You see, last week a bitter cold snap here in Ohio ruined much of the early spring flora. Even the hardy daffodils lay bowed over to the ground.

However, they were not defeated! When the temperature rose above freezing again, most of their floral stems stood tall once more. Fluted cups remained open and delicately ruffled; petals fanned outward with only a slight curl at the tips.

I’m so very grateful a soupçon of spring has survived.

 

(“Sweet are the thoughts that savor of content.

The quiet mind is richer than a crown.”

– Robert Greene, English author, 1558-1592)

 

I’m discovering Robert Greene was right. Sweet thoughts do produce the treasure of a quiet mind.

 

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

 

What a delight, Father, to give you thanks and praise for your abundant gifts—the beautiful, the pleasant, the heart-warming, the humorous. Every day is filled with blessing because of your love, compassion, and faithfulness.  My heart overflows with gratitude as I contemplate your goodness!

 

(Psalm 9:1-2, 103:8; Colossians 2:6-7)

 

 

What small thing causes your heart to overflow with thankfulness?  Share your choice in the comment section below!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.flickr.com; http://www.slideshare.net; http://www.truevined.com; Nancy Ruegg (2); http://www.oldquotes.com; Myra Johnson at http://www.picturemythoughts.com.)

 

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“Elena wins the prize for quote-of-the-day,” her teacher, Miss Allison, quietly told my husband as he picked up our three-year old granddaughter from preschool.

Miss Allison continued with a twinkle in her eye. “She informed everyone today that she’s Princess of the Preschool.”

 

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(Not Elena, but she would love this princess-style dress!)

 

In reality, Elena knows little about being a princess. She hasn’t seen any of the Disney fairy tale films and she owns no ball gowns. Even so, Elena has somehow decided that princess status is something to be desired.

Chances are, however, Prince Charming will not ride up her street on his white steed and whisk her away to a castle of fabulous riches.

What Elena doesn’t fully realize yet is this: her Heavenly Father does offer her a glorious life of royalty, because He is the King of all the earth (Psalm 47:7) and those of us who receive his Son Jesus into our lives become his children (John 1:12).

 

john-1-12

 

As Elena continues to learn about him, she’ll discover marvelous truths about the royal standing God’s children enjoy. See if your heart doesn’t begin to beat a bit faster as you consider the following:

 

  1. We each have great value in the kingdom of God (Luke 15:3-7).

Think about a museum of artifacts that once belonged to a famous person. Ordinary objects like a worn tailcoat, a battered desk, and yellowed correspondence take on great worth because of who owned them.

We belong to the most illustrious Being of the universe. Each of us might be as ordinary and common as a library chair, yet we are extremely valuable because we belong to God.

 

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  1. God provides fitting apparel in keeping with our royal status.

The figurative robes of our spirits (our insufficient efforts at good deeds) are nothing more than filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), given our foibles and misconduct. But God provides us with the pure white robe of Christ’s righteousness to replace those rags (61:10).

 

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That robe of righteousness includes sleeves of compassion and kindness, a yoke of humility, and long, flowing folds of gentleness and patience (Colossians 3:12). For my own puny stature, that robe is much too big; I can’t live out such goodness on my own. It’s only as I allow Jesus to work in me and through me that I begin to grow into his robe. It’s a process that will take a lifetime and beyond (Philippians 1:6).

Another piece of apparel is a necessity for every royal personage: a crown. And God has not omitted this adornment. Just what might a crown represent? Wise King Solomon made this observation: “Blessings crown the head of the righteous” (Proverbs 10:6).

 

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I can say amen to that. God has frequently adorned my life with gifts far exceeding what I need—not because I’ve earned them but because of his loving nature.

You too?

 

  1. We have access to the throne room of the King.

Any time of day or night, we can enter into God’s presence, knowing we’ll receive his immediate welcome. Because he exists independent of time and space, our Father King can turn his full, individual attention to each of us, even if we all approached him at once.

And we do need his attention. We are not perfectly wise and capable and strong like he is. Instead, we tend to be selfish and proud. We mess up. In addition, life is full of challenges—challenges we don’t know how to handle.

But at God’s throne of grace—where he dispenses his favor on us who do not deserve it–we receive his help in our time of need (Hebrews 4:16).

 

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In fact, there is no one like God the King.

“He rides across the heavens to help you, across the skies in majestic splendor” (Deuteronomy 33:26 NLT).

Isn’t that a glorious image?

And look–he’s even riding a white horse (Revelation 19:11)!

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.pauldingcountyareafoundation.net; http://www.dailyverses.net; http://www.quotefancy.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.jesuscalls.com; http://www.pinterest.com.)

 

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(Granddaughter #3, Maarit Anne*, was born on Sunday, January 15.)

 

Creator of Maarit Anne and Heavenly Father of us all,

We praise you for this precious gift of new life—

A delightful reward from your gracious hand of love.

Already she is a blessing as we cuddle her tiny form,

Caress her downy head, and kiss her soft cheeks.

 

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We marvel how you wove together so many disparate parts

To create this unique little person,

Evident in her distinctive collection of family traits:

Mommy’s dark hair and Daddy’s brow line,

Auntie Heather’s long, slender fingers, and

Grandpa Terry’s narrow feet.

In more ways yet to be revealed Maarit is an exemplification

Of your exquisite workmanship—

a heavenly piece of poetry—

in mind, body, soul, and spirit.

 

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We praise you for the perfect life-course

You’ve already planned for Maarit—

A future gleaming with hope because

You’ve set her apart and equipped her

For special purpose to accomplish your good works.

 

May her eyes be drawn to you and your Word,

The wondrous splendors of your creation,

And the signs of your love all around her.

May Maarit’s mouth be filled with praise,

Declaring your glory all day long.

May her ears be quick to hear your voice,

And her heart be delighted to respond.

 

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May Maarit’s spirit grow strong

In the loving care and nurture of Jesus.

May she wear your instruction

As a garland of praise.

 

Give to all who love and care for Maarit

The wisdom and grace to guide her in all your ways.

Protect and provide for her all the days

You’ve ordained for her.

 

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These things we ask for our Maarit Anne

In the Name of Jesus.

Amen.

 

(Psalm 127:3, 139:15; Ephesians 2:10; Psalm 119:18; Jeremiah 1:5, 29:11;

Psalm 71:8; Proverbs 23:12; Psalm 119:35; Proverbs 1:9; Psalm 139:16, Psalm 23:6.)

 

*Maar (rhymes with bar)-it is a Finnish name, meaning “pearl,” in honor of our daughter-in-law’s Finnish heritage on her mother’s side. Maarit’s middle name was given in honor of Hilja’s grandmother–and me, a delightful, humbling surprise.

 

Art & photo credits:  Nancy Ruegg; http://www.pinterest (3), http://www.ourdailyblossom.com.

 

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When I was a young girl, my family lived near Chicago in a three-bedroom, one bath home. One car parked in the driveway; there was no garage. My brother and I dreamed of owning an in-ground swimming pool but had to settle for the crowded, over-chlorinated conditions of the community pool.

 

pine_cove_beach_swimmers_hot_day_1950s

 

If someone had told me, “Nancy, when you grow up you will get married, have three children, and live in Florida for forty years. Every home will have two bathrooms and a garage. You’ll eventually own two cars, too. But, best of all, three of your homes will have a swimming pool in the backyard.”

 

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(Sometimes we enjoyed a bigger pool — the Gulf or Atlantic.)

 

I would have thought, Unbelievable! When all those heavenly things happen, then I’ll be happy and content.

Ah, but during those forty years in Florida I remember thinking on more than one occasion: If only this heat and humidity would let up. It’s like a furnace out there. Or, Why can’t these kids just get along with each other and give me some peace? Or, Houseguests are coming; gotta clean those bathrooms today. Ugh.

Contentment can be an elusive quality. No sooner do we possess one long-desired item, we discover another acquisition to wish for. No sooner have we achieved one level of success, we’re already reaching for the next—with a sideways glance at our neighbor who’s acquired or accomplished more than we have.

We know what scripture tells us: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6).

 

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Our spirits sense the truth of it and recognize the gain to be had when craving, grasping, and unrest give way to peace of mind and tranquility of spirit.

But how?

Contentment is a choice of perspective. I can choose to affirm and celebrate my:

  • Possessions.  I have more than enough.
  • Position.  I have experienced more than enough.
  • Personhood.  I am more than enough the way God made me, with my particular personality traits, gifts, and abilities.

Like Paul, I can learn to be content by choosing again and again the proper perspective (Philippians 4:11).

 

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However.

There is one area where contentment is not desirable: in the spiritual realm. I never want to become content with what I already know about God or be satisfied with the current level of intimacy between my Heavenly Father and me.

I want to grow in the grace and knowledge of Jesus (2 Peter 3:18).

 

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That’s an opportunity for a lifetime. Think of it: we never reach the end of his magnificence and influence. There is always greater knowledge to understand, more wonder to explore, more splendor and growth to experience.

*     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *     *

Lord, God, may I not look right or left at what others have, or what others have accomplished, or what gifts and talents they display. Keep me mindful of my utmost desire: to know you more intimately, follow you more closely, and live in the contentment of your sufficiency for everything.

 

Art & photo credits:  www.ancestory.com; Nancy Ruegg; http://www.youtube.com; http://www.pinterest (2).

 

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